During the summer of 1983 I attended a 6-week program at the Eastman School of Music for arranging and jazz improvisation. I took an arranging class from the great Bill Dobbins and an improvisation class from Ray Ricker. It was a terrific summer. I spent days in class, and practicing many hours, and then I spent my nights arranging charts and copying parts (Yes, we did it by hand. NO Finale back then!)
It was this time that I first heard of the name Maria Schneider. She was attending the “Arranger’s Holiday” portion of the summer at Eastman. (The Arranger’s Holiday was for experienced arrangers).
Although I had heard of Maria Schneider, it was not until a few years later that I heard her first CD of big band compositions. To be honest, the music blew me away. It was so far from the way I viewed a big band (and still is!), it was totally a breath of fresh air. Maria changed the way a big band sounded, but it wasn’t “weird” in any way. Her ability to tell a story via the big band in a totally fresh and unique way is as good as it gets.
Maria is not a “straight ahead” jazz composer per se, but unlike many more modern composers I’ve heard over the last few decades, Maria’s music always has an aspect of telling a story. Her charts are never boring and they always move from one logical point to another. You’ll have to listen to her stuff to really know what I mean.
Anyway, I found some great words of wisdom on Youtube by Maria and thought it would be a good idea to post them here for you to enjoy and learn from her view of music and arranging and composing.
Interview with Maria Schneider
How do you overcome writer’s block as a jazz composer?
How do you begin composing a piece of music?
What advice would you give a young jazz composer starting out today?